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Union Slough
National Wildlife Refuge

male bobolink
1710 360th St.
Titonka, IA   50480
E-mail: unionslough@fws.gov
Phone Number: 515-928-2523
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Grassland songbirds such as bobolinks find habitat in Union Slough Refuge's tallgrass prairie.
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Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 to provide a refuge and breeding ground for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The actual slough is all that remains of a pre-glacial riverbed, and its name is derived from the connection or "union" of two watersheds: the Blue Earth River of Minnesota and the East Fork of the Des Moines River. The terrain is nearly flat, allowing the flow of the water to be determined by the direction of the wind at times.

The refuge is on the eastern edge of the tallgrass prairie region of the Northern Great Plains an area known for its agriculture. This 3,334-acre refuge surrounded by a sea of corn and soybeans provides vital habitat for a variety of plants and animals dependent upon tallgrass prairie and wetland habitats.

Getting There . . .
Union Slough Refuge is roughly 2.5 hours southwest of Minneapolis and northwest of Des Moines. From Algona, take Highway 169 north to Bancroft; turn right (east) on county road A-42, and proceed six miles to the office at 1710 360th St. From Interstate 90; take the Blue Earth, MN, exit and follow Rt. 169 south into Iowa. At Lakota, follow P60 south to A42, then west 0.25 miles on A42 to the office.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Union Slough Refuge encompasses roughly 3,300 acres along an eight-mile stretch of Union Slough and Buffalo Creek.

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Prior to European settlement, numerous depressions created by retreating glaciers and characterized by wetland soils dotted large expanses of the landscape. Tall grasses such as big bluestem and Indiangrass, with an assortment of prairie flowers, flourished in the rich, organic soil.

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Management Activities
The various types of land on the refuge require a variety of management methods. To provide nesting habitat for waterfowl and other upland species and to slow the effects of runoff and erosion, refuge staff are restoring native grassland species on areas of the refuge once used for agriculture. Mowing and controlled burning are some of the techniques used to control invasive plant species and to restore native species on the refuge.

Water levels are manipulated to approximate the water levels of the slough that existed before the arrival of humans. Through water level management, the refuge can support a healthy system of wetlands. This system of temporary, seasonal, and permanent wetlands is similar to that encountered by the first white settlers to northern Iowa.